This is part two in a series entitled “Play Ball: The Crossroads of America’s Pastime and Social Media”. For the other posts in this series feel free to visit Dom’s author page here.
It was a cloudy afternoon in the late spring of 2013. I was working at an insurance company in Grand Rapids at the time and I get a call from my buddy Ben at about 2pm and he asks me if i can cut out of work a little early so that we can go to a Tigers game that night. I had some leeway with my manager so at 4 I was picked up and we drove the 2.5 hours from Grand Rapids to Comerica Park to see the Tigers play. Parking was a little messy but we got there in time to see Miguel Cabrera step up to the plate for his first at bat. We were in a suite on the third base side, I could see the 24 nice and clear on the back of his jersey as he dug his cleats into the batters box. The pitch came in and Miggy took a calm swing, didn’t seem forced, just effortless and I could hear the crack of the bat and that ball just flew off his bat. I tracked it with my eyes and saw it soar, like a ball off the tee in golf. Rising higher and seeming to gain speed. It was the first home run I had ever seen in person from Miggy and I remember it to this day. Fluid, effortless, and beautiful.
That effortless swing does not come easy and truthfully you can work for your entire life and never be able to obtain it, but it is something to strive for. We strive for that in the social media world too. You want to have everything under control. You want to have the community people dream about. One that engages well with all of the posts you put out there. You want to be able to add a call to action on a blog post and have the highest click through rate imaginable. We want sales to be through the roof and have to get a new hard drive because you filled one up with nothing but screenshots of people talking about how amazing you are. You want to hit home runs. The question becomes how.
Go to the Gym
I am not big enough to hit a home run. My muscles have not been trained for it. I carry too many groceries inside and I think about stopping half way from the car to the door, but Cabrera is a big dude. He puts his time in lifting weights, he strengthens his arms, his core, his legs. You have to do the same thing with social. You have to do your research, and have it ready to act on. Your brain and your fingers are muscles, work those suckers out! Learn about your community, get big in your brain with what they need to know, what they are asking for. My good friend Brian Fanzo mentions that he talks fast and tweets faster. Get in the habit of responding, and responding quick. People love that, and that is a muscle you have to build.
See a Lot of Pitches
Lets get technical on this. As an MLB hitter you are roughly 60 feet from the pitcher. If that pitcher throws a ball at 95 mph then it is traveling at you at about 139 feet per second. That means it will cross the plate in about .425 seconds. To be able to hit that it means you have to start reacting to the pitch in approximately .20 seconds. You have ONE FIFTH of a second to decide to swing or not. Do me a favor and clap twice. Did you do it? That time between the claps is ~.20 seconds. This is all to say that batters have to train their brains to make those judgements and the only way to do that is to stand in the batters box and see A LOT of pitches. Hundreds, thousands of pitches to get the timing down.
You have to do the same thing in social. It is nearly impossible to hit consistently when you just jump into a community. You have to see a lot of posts, you have to watch and study the community. You have to see these things happening in front of you. You can just sit and practice your swing with nothing coming at you. You can perfect a message. You can fine tune and work on every single word that YOU say. But, if the timing is wrong and you plan on a fastball and the community throws a curveball you are going to look foolish. So you have to see the different situations for real. Only then will you know what swing is best for each occasion.
Take Some Cuts
Like I said, I played baseball a bit as a kid and I remember one year I was playing and I was the kid on the team that drew the most walks. Not because I had a good eye, mostly because I was afraid to swing. I dont know why, but I just would not take any swings. My coach had to yell at me to swing the bat. I ended up getting over the fear and they eventually had to tell me not so swing so much, but that is besides the point. It is true that it is statistically impossible to hit a home run without swinging the bat. We sometimes have to remind ourselves of that in social too. It is awesome to do your research, it is awesome to work out that brain muscle, to see all those pitches and know what you are supposed to do with each one. But all of that is wasted unless you actually take a swing. Unless you actually post, unless you actually respond to that comment you will not get those clicks. You will never drive engagement if your community does not have anything to engage with. You have to know and execute, or else you are a ball of potential energy, gone to waste.
We all want that perfect swing, that effortless stroke that knocks it out of the park. You can get there, or close to there. but you have to put in the work first though.
Connect with Dom on Twitter at @domgarrett or on Google+.